The Amalfi Coast isn’t exactly a low-key or well-kept Italy vacation secret, and it’s no surprise that swarms of people descend upon the region every summer. It’s not, however, the only idyllic getaway on the country’s southern coast. Long known as the gateway to the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, a charming town perched above the Bay of Naples, is a worthy holiday locale in its own right, and has been a go-to jaunt for the jet set for hundreds of years.
And when luxury travelers head to Sorrento, there’s particular spot that stands out above the rest—the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria. The Fiorentino family founded the five-star hotel in 1834, and it has been continuously owned and run by the family ever since.
It’s a truly enchanting escape that starts from the moment you catch sight of the iconic hotel, which sits atop a picturesque cliffside in Sorrento. The property is the epitome of understated luxury; it exudes an old world elegance, from the opulent yet welcoming marble-bedecked lobby and frescoed ceilings to the verdant gardens and sprawling terrace, with sweeping views of
First, logistics: How do you get here?
Sorrento is just about an hour’s drive from Naples, though there’s also a local train that connects the two areas. The timing varies depending on traffic, but watching the view transform from the city into that quintessential southern coastal Italian landscape is pretty special.
The hotel is conveniently situated right in the heart of Sorrento, but the moment you enter through the majestic gates, you feel a world away from the hustle and bustle of the town. The five acres of vibrant gardens surely contribute to that secluded ambiance; as you amble through the lush greenery and descend the steps to the main building of the hotel, a feeling of serene tranquility comes over you—it’s like vacation has officially begun.
Let’s talk history.
The Fiorentino family founded the hotel in 1834, and it’s no small feat that the property, a longtime member of Leading Hotels of the World, has stayed family-owned and run since it first opened its doors. Over the years, the Excelsior Vittoria has welcomed everyone from Princess Margaret and Oscar Wilde to Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren, not to mention other royals including Empress Sisi of Austria and Queen Victoria of Sweden, the later for whom the hotel is named.
Today, it’s helmed by fifth-generation owner Guido Fiorentino, whose elder son, Luca, is the hotel’s head of sales and marketing. The Fiorentinos are involved in every aspect of Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria, which is a rarity in the hospitality world—plenty of properties are *technically* family-owned, but that’s often in name only, with day-to-day operations sourced elsewhere.
The property’s history goes back much further than the Fiorentino family, though; legend has it that the ruins of Roman Emperor Augustus’ own villa lay the site. Indeed, the historical nature of this particular piece of land has made it somewhat difficult when it comes to major renovations, as there’s always some new bit of history being discovered, including an ancient Roman bath by the hotel’s pool.
Now, onto the decor.
The tastefully designed hotel pays tribute to its distinguished history with a plethora of photographs of past guests, as well as countless antiques (many of which are from the Fiorentinos’ personal collection) that complement the frescoed ceilings and original 18th-century columns. That doesn’t translate to stuffy, though—instead, the open and airy architecture creates a classic and coastal, decidedly Italian aesthetic, with plenty of unapologetic glamour.
There are various seating and lounging areas for guests to peruse, with several “living rooms,” including the Winter Garden, Music Room and Writing Room, all with different decor influences—while one features plush blue upholstery and overstuffed chairs, another has a more minimal feel, with the focus on the floor-to-ceiling windows and vista outside.
What about the rooms?
The hotel is composed of just 79 rooms, including 49 suites, which are spread out among three adjacent buildings: La Vittoria, a classic 19th-century Italian villa which was built in 1834, La Rivale, which has a similar look and was built in 1882, and finally La Favorita, which features chalet-inspired architecture design and dates back to 1880.
The accommodations are elegant but entirely unfussy; while the rooms are unique, the spaces all feature open and airy interiors, glittering light fixtures and sumptuous linen sheets, and many have private terraces, too. The guest rooms are all quite spacious, even in the lower categories, but you can’t go wrong with one of the luxe suites.
If you really want to treat yourself, consider one of the six one-of-a-kind suites, all of which are named and designed in honor of famous past guests, including the Royal Suite (for King Edward VII), the Margaret Suite (Princess Margaret) and the Pavarotti Suite (opera singer Luciano Pavarotti).
One particular suite does stand a touch above the rest, though. “Those in the know tend to request the Caruso Suite,” Luca Fiorentino informed me, and white I, unfortunately, was not yet in the know, I soon learned that this suite is the very one that famed Italian tenor Enrico Caruso stayed in while at the hotel in 1921, and it still houses his personal piano. It’s not the largest or most extravagant accommodation at the hotel, but its illustrious past has moved it to the top of the list.
So, what’s there to do?
On my car ride from Naples to Sorrento, the driver asked me what was in the cards for my stay. It had been a rather hectic week (this was my third city in four days, on a trip that included a heavily delayed transatlantic flight over a holiday weekend and multiple train rides sans air conditioning), and I admitted that I had precisely zero items on the agenda. “Sorrento is the perfect place to have no plans and do nothing,” he told me.
He was entirely correct—one of the best things about Sorrento is that you can make your vacation into whatever kind of trip you want. Yes, you can fill your days with sightseeing, including booking a boat trip to historical spots like Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii, or perhaps embark on a day jaunt to Capri, Positano or Amalfi. Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria makes this especially convenient; a private elevator on the terrace allows guests to come and go straight to the port at any time; from the harbor, you can easily access the ferries that connect Sorrento to the islands.
For those that want to stay put at the hotel, make your way over to the pool, and spend a day lounging under the Italian sun—preferably with a pasta-filled lunch and a lemon sorbet for a sweet treat. Afterwards, you can head to the main terrace or the new Bar a Champagne La Pergola, which is situated at the entrance to the hotel and is perfect for bubbly enthusiasts.
Last but not least—how’s the food?
The Michelin-starred restaurant, Terrazza Bosquet, is an obvious highlight here. Not only is this one of the most delightful meals you’ll ever experience, but it’s also quite possibly the best view in all of Sorrento—as you sample carefully crafted, yet entirely unpretentious, dishes prepared by chef Antonino Montefusco, you’ll watch the sun slowly drop into the
Breakfast is offered daily in the utterly splendid Vittoria Room, which is perhaps one of the grandest spaces in the glamorous hotel, and for a more casual Mediterranean-focused lunch or dinner, head to the poolside L’Orangerie. Your visit also wouldn’t be complete without an al fresco cocktail on the Terrazza Vittoria, which is open for lunch daily through 6 pm, and then exclusively for drinks and bar snacks. Nab one of the coveted tables overlooking the